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CUBA STANDARD — A 30-member business delegation from Mexico led by Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo Villareal started a three-day visit to Cuba today with a tour of the new Special Economic Development Zone at Mariel.

The Mexican businesspeople will also participate in a round of negotiations with Cuban Foreign Trade Minister Rodrigo Malmierca and Cuban executives, and witness the opening of a ProMéxico trade promotion office at the Centro Internacional de Negocios in Miramar.

The delegation includes the heads of foreign trade guarantee bank Bancomext and of ProMéxico.

ProMéxico didn’t release any information about what companies participated in the delegation, but it said that an April workshop on doing business in Cuba included representatives of 30 companies in the pharmaceutical, food and drink, industry supply, infrastructure and tourism sectors.

Bilateral trade in 2013 totaled $386 million, making Mexico one of Cuba’s largest trade partners in the region. The neighbors agreed last year to relaunch trade and  investment relations, after a 12-year period of cool political relations. Removing the biggest obstacle to Mexican trade and investment in Cuba, the government of Mexico pardoned most of Cuba’s $487 million debt in November. Mexico agreed to waive 70% of the total, and Cuba will pay the remainder within 10 years. Meanwhile, Bancomext extended a new line of credit.

In other trade promotion news, Deputy Foreign Trade and Investment Minister Ileana Núñez Mordoche was scheduled to arrive in South Korea today, making her the highest-ranking Cuban official to visit the Asian country since they broke diplomatic relations in 1959. Núñez will meet with South Korean business executives in one-on-one meetings to promote the Mariel Zone. South Korea does not have an embassy in Cuba, but trade promotion agency KOTRA operates an office in Havana.

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